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Bernie Ziebart

The Engineering Perspective

The blog is a view of life, science, politics and education from an engineering perspective. As engineers, we are taught to view the world objectively. We can hope, believe and calculate a particular outcome, but natural laws are inflexible and pay no heed to who we are or what we believe. We must approach the objective dispassionately, while compensating for our own distorted perceptions. Balance is also a key element; balancing between the ideal and the pragmatic, balancing cost and functionality, balancing analysis with action, etc.

Scheduling routine critical self-analysis is the foundation to objectivity. If we do not fully understand and compensate for our own failures, tendencies, habits and skewed thought processes, we will not see the world as it is. Without a regular critical self-analysis we will see the world as we are and then fall prey to self-delusion.

Failure is a great teacher. When failure is coupled with perseverance, it produces the fruit of patience and humility. An engineer, fresh out of engineering school is typically set up for failure early and often. The failure breaks the new engineer of any ideas of self-importance, arrogance and book smarts. Only then can the new engineer be formed and molded into a productive element in the industry.


Australia's anti-insult law

In 2010, Attorney General Robert McClelland stated that the Australian federal government was seeking to streamline Australia's anti-discrimination laws and make them what he called more user-friendly.
Five pieces of legislation dealing with race, sex, disability, age and the work of the Human Rights Commission would be consolidated into a single comprehensive law.

The proposed new Human Rights and Anti-discrimination Bill describes unlawful discrimination as unfavorable treatment of another person on account of their possessing one or more protected attributes.
In further defining unlawful conduct, the new bill equates unfavorable treatment with harassment and other conduct that offends, insults or intimidates another person.

The new laws will extend to the workplace, shops, schools and warfare; to every facet of public life. Australians' behavior and conversations in schools, shops, playgrounds, clubs, pubs and sporting fields will be covered by the anti-discrimination legislation drafted by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.

Hurt feelings are set to become the legal trigger for compensation claims.

A law that makes it illegal to ’insult’ or ‘offend’ someone else sounds utopic at the surface level, but it has the potential to go very wrong; producing a land of lawsuits.

Constitutional law professors Nicholas Aroney, of the University of Queensland, and Sydney University's Patrick Parkinson, have told the Senate inquiry the "heavy-handed" laws blur the line between illegal discrimination and social norms.

In favor of the proposed law are Muslim groups and the LGBT groups. Muslims Australia spokesman Keysar Trad says members of the community in Australia are regularly discriminated against on a number of fronts -- most publicly as the victims of hate speech.
He says the federal government is being asked to provide greater protection against discrimination on the grounds of religion under the new legislation.

The government’s attempt to modernize Australia’s anti-discrimination laws attracted a hornet’s nest of criticism this week from Christian churches, bloggers, employers, unions and civil libertarians.

The on-line media outlets were the first to cite objections to the proposed laws. A spokesman for a news site said that the business of newscasting is offensive to someone or something. For example, if a politician, in a rare occurrence, was caught in a scandal, the news report on the scandal is offensive to the politician who was caught in the act. The job of the film critic or food critic would be eliminated. The sports page would also be gone. An athlete or team could take offense to a news article about their poor performance.

Catholic Cardinal George Pell and the shop assistants’ union – unlikely allies – both decried the draft laws as “the first step towards totalitarianism”.

Catholic hospitals fear a challenge to their bans on abortion and birth control, while a Melbourne academic claims transgender men will start taking over the women’s restrooms. 

Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president Michael Cope fears the legislation could limit public debate to “innocuous, sterilized conversation”. “The council is not a racist organization but we defend a person’s right to express racist sentiments,” he told the inquiry. “Being democratically elected does not give a government a mandate to stifle voices with which it does not agree. If a person is physically or emotionally abused, the issue is not racist expression, but instead a problem with violence or aggression which should not be tolerated”.

Cardinal Pell agrees with Mr Cope; “Discrimination is a regular and necessary part of daily life,” he wrote in News Ltd papers on Sunday. “We discriminate between friends and foes. Society discriminates between criminals and the law-abiding … (and) by choosing only the best students to study medicine or law and the best athletes to represent Australia. Governments choose which immigrants they will accept and those they expel.”

Critics are also alarmed that the burden of proof will be reversed, so that people accused of discrimination will have to prove their innocence. And each party will have to pay their own legal costs, regardless of who wins.

FECCA Chairman Pino Migliorino says the new legislation shifts the onus of proof for an alleged unlawful insult onto the accused, instead of the claimant bearing the responsibility as it stands in the current anti-discrimination laws. The accused stand guilty until he/her exonerates him/herself.

Employer groups predict the changes will result not in a lawyers’ picnic, but a lawyers’ lunch – long-running and very expensive. State governments are complaining the federal laws will interfere with their power to arrest criminals, suspend driving licenses, segregate sexual offenders away from children or ban the mentally ill from owning guns.

David Goodwin, a member of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s productivity committee, describes the law as “manna from heaven for no-win, no-fee law firms. Bosses are going to have to become the thought police,” he says. “It’s unworkable”.

This law will do nothing to curtail offenses, because anyone can be offended by anything if they want to. It also becomes apparent that this law, drafted by lawyers, is solely created to protect the interests in their law practices; insuring a steady stream of income at the expense of society.

On January 31st, after months of outrage with Attorney General Nicola Roxon as the target, Roxon has asked her department to redraft sections of the legislation to remove a clause that would have prohibited conduct that "offends or insults".  "It seems to me clear that there are better options than the one that's being proposed and we'll take it forward from there."

Fellow Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull has welcomed Ms Roxon's decision to back down on elements of the bill, "I'm sure everyone who cares about free speech, which is almost all Australians, would be very pleased that she's recognized that the bill that she was proposing was outrageous."

To me it appears that the attorney general has little respect for Democracy, personal liberties and the freedom of expression but has retreated from her objectives for the moment for no other reason than to keep her job.  But, at heart, she has Totalitarian tendencies; otherwise she never would have proposed this legislation.

Matthew 18:7 states that because man is imperfect, offenses and hurts will occur in life. The two sources of offense and hurt is at both ends of the relationship.  The other person may intentionally insult you, but you may also misunderstand perfectly good intentions and be offended.  But in either case, we should not allow offenses in life to produce a heart of bitterness.  However, it can't be legislated.

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